Comment by hungryhippo on LW2.0 now in public beta (you'll need to reset your password to log in) · 2017-09-23T18:29:25.198Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Same here. I just made a new account.

Comment by hungryhippo on Open thread, September 4 - September 10, 2017 · 2017-09-04T16:18:13.156Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

With the Dota OpenAI bot, Alpha GO, and Deep Blue --- it's funny how we keep training AIs to play zero-sum war simulation games against human enemies.

Comment by hungryhippo on Ten small life improvements · 2017-08-21T09:02:01.984Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

keyboard shortcuts to snap windows to any half or third of the screen (or full screen).

In Windows 10 you can,

  • Maximize a window using Windows Key + Up Arrow.
  • Un-maximize with Win + Down Arrow.
  • Minimize window with Win + Down Arrow again.
  • Cover left half, with Win + Left Arrow.
  • Upper right quarter with Win + Right Arrow, followed by Win + Up Arrow.
  • Lower left with Win + Left Arrow, followed by Win + Down Arrow.
  • When using left/right split windows, dragging the center resize bar will resize both windows.

Very convenient.

Comment by hungryhippo on Bridging the Intention-Action Gap (aka Akrasia) · 2017-08-01T23:52:50.531Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I bumped into this paper when looking for additional research for Habits 101.

Are you by any chance familiar with the text book Self-Directed Behavior? It's basically psychology of habits 101.

Comment by hungryhippo on Bridging the Intention-Behavior Gap (aka Akrasia) · 2017-08-01T20:03:49.558Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Your link doesn't lead anywhere. :-)

Comment by hungryhippo on Open thread, May 15 - May 21, 2017 · 2017-05-15T23:24:06.431Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Good luck on your weight loss! :-)

Comment by hungryhippo on Open thread, May 8 - May 14, 2017 · 2017-05-10T23:52:17.431Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

TapLog is very nifty, it's simply that it would be even better with a somewhat extended feature set.

Here's one use case: I want to log my skin picking and skin care routine (morning/evening).

The first is easy. I just add a button to my home screen that increments by one every time I click it (which is every time I touch my face with my fingers). After a while I can plot number of picks each day, or month, or cumulative, etc. It's very nice.

Logging my skin care routine is more difficult, since TapLog does not support lists. (Only quantity, and/or text-input [with an optional prompt], and/or gps position, for a single entry)

What I would like is for TapLog to let me predefine a list of items (shave, cleanse, moisturizer) then give me a push notification in the morning and/or evening requesting me to check off each item.

(If you use something like Wunderlist with a daily repeat of the list, it is very fragile. If you miss a couple of days you have to reset the date for the reminder, because there's no way for unfinished lists to simply disappear unless you actually check them off. And in Wunderlist there's no way to analyze your list data to see how well you did last month, etc.)

Comment by hungryhippo on Open thread, May 8 - May 14, 2017 · 2017-05-10T00:30:34.842Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Your post reads as if you read my mind. :)

I currently use a mix between TapLog (for Android) and google forms (with an icon on my home screen so that it mimics a locally installed app).

Neither feels as if they really solve my needs, though. E.g. both lack a reminder feature.

Comment by hungryhippo on Rationality Quotes April - June 2017 · 2017-04-01T13:27:35.989Z · score: 4 (5 votes) · LW · GW

[the egg rolled passed Skipper, Kowalski, and Rico]

Skipper: Hey, anybody see that? That's an egg! Is somebody gonna go get it?

Penguin #5: We can't do that.

Skipper: Why not?

Penguin #6: Well, it's a dangerous world out there and we're just penguins. You know, nothing but cute and cuddly.

Penguin #7: Yeah. Why do you think there are always documentary crews filming us? [camera zooms out to see two men with a camera and a microphone for filming]

Penguin #8: Well, sorry, kid. You know, we lose a few eggs every year. It's just nature.

Skipper: Oh, right, nature. I guess that makes sense. But... But something... something deep down in my gut tells me that it just doesn't make any sense at all. You know what? I reject nature! [the other penguins gasp] Who's with me? [with a shout, Skipper goes after the egg, much to Kowalski's and Rico's confusion]

Penguins of Madagascar, 2014

Comment by hungryhippo on Sufficiently sincere confirmation bias is indistinguishable from science · 2017-03-16T13:50:47.298Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

They tried to show, they got a different answer, they showed it anyway.

This is very admirable! Especially on such a politically charged topic.

Comment by hungryhippo on Open Thread, Feb. 27 - March 5, 2017 · 2017-03-03T21:22:20.255Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Under the assumption that your daily energy expenditure is a constant proportional to your bodyweight, the resulting curve is similar to exponential decay, ~exp(-c*t).

Think radioactive material, except that instead of decaying all the way towards zero atoms, one's weightloss would stop at a bodyweight consistent with an energy expenditure equal to the energy input from the diet.

Note that this is a pretty bold assumption with many caveats.

Comment by hungryhippo on Open Thread, Feb. 20 - Feb 26, 2017 · 2017-02-23T14:04:15.290Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

When I listend to his AMA, I noticed this line as well. It's a really clever "tool for thinking" that deserves to be noticed.

There's an interview with Dawkins somewhere where he mentions an anecdote about Wittgenstein. Wittgenstein is supposed to have said "Why did people ever believe that the sun revolves around the earth?", and his interlocutor supposedly answered: "Well, obviously it's because it looks like the sun is revolving around the earth." Then Wittgenstein whips out the counterfactual: "Well, what would it have looked like if it looked like the earth revolves around the sun?".

And the answer is obviously: exactly the same, lol!

Comment by hungryhippo on Open thread, Feb. 13 - Feb. 19, 2017 · 2017-02-15T16:54:09.837Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The "Web of Stories" channel has interviews with notable scientists (Freeman Dyson, Marvin Minsky, John Maynard Smith, etc.).

Comment by hungryhippo on Ideas for Next Generation Prediction Technologies · 2016-12-21T16:32:32.115Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you for this reference!

Sharpening Your Forecasting Skills, Link

Are there any case histories of how superforcaster work, where they "show their work" as it were?

Comment by hungryhippo on "Flinching away from truth” is often about *protecting* the epistemology · 2016-12-20T17:55:18.681Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Very interesting article!

I'm incidentally re-reading "Feeling Good" and parts of it deal with situations exactly like the ones Oshun-Kid is in.

From Chapter 6 ("Verbal Judo: How to talk back when you're under the fire of criticism"), I quote:

Here’s how it works. When another person criticizes you, certain negative thoughts are automatically triggered in your head. Your emotional reaction will be created by these thoughts and not by what the other person says. The thoughts which upset you will invariably contain the same types of mental errors described in Chapter 3: overgeneralization, all-or-nothing thinking, the mental filter, labeling, etc. For example, let’s take a look at Art’s thoughts. His panic was the result of his catastrophic interpretation: “This criticism shows how worthless I am.” What mental errors is he making? In the first place, Art is jumping to conclusions when he arbitrarily concludes the patient’s criticism is valid and reasonable. This may or may not be the case. Furthermore, he is exaggerating the importance of whatever he actually said to the patient that may have been undiplomatic (magnification), and he is assuming he could do nothing to correct any errors in his behavior (the fortune teller error). He unrealistically predicted he would be rejected and ruined professionally because he would repeat endlessly whatever error he made with this one patient (overgeneralization). He focused exclusively on his error (the mental filter) and over-looked his numerous other therapeutic successes (disqualifying or overlooking the positive). He identified with his erroneous behavior and concluded he was a “worthless and insensitive human being” (labeling). The first step in overcoming your fear of criticism concerns your own mental processes: Learn to identify the negative thoughts you have when you are being criticized. It will be most helpful to write them down using the double-column technique described in the two previous chapters. This will enable you to analyze your thoughts and recognize where your thinking is illogical or wrong. Finally, write down rational responses that are more reasonable and less upsetting.

And quoting your article:

(You might take a moment, right now, to name the cognitive ritual the kid in the story should do (if only she knew the ritual). Or to name what you think you'd do if you found yourself in the kid's situation -- and how you would notice that you were at risk of a "buckets error".)

I would encourage Oshun-Kid to cultivate the following habit:

  1. Notice when you feel certain (negative) emotions. (E.g. anxiety, sadness, fear, frustration, boredom, stressed, depressed, self-critical, etc.) Recognizing these (sometimes fleeting) moments is a skill that you get better at as you practice.
  2. Try putting down in words (write it down!) why you feel that emotion in this situation. This too, you will get better at as you practice. These are your Automatic Thoughts. E.g. "I'm always late!".
  3. Identify the cognitive distortions present in your automatic thought. E.g. Overgeneralization, all-or-nothing thinking, catastrophizing, etc.
  4. Write down a Rational Response that is absolutely true (don't try to deceive yourself --- it doesn't work!) and also less upsetting. E.g.: I'm not literally always late! I'm sometimes late and sometimes on time. If I'm going to beat myself up for the times I'm late, I might as well feel good about myself for the times I'm on time. Etc.

Write steps 2., 3., and 4., in three columns, where you add a new row each time you notice a negative emotion.

I'm actually surprised that Cognitive Biases are focused on to a greater degree than Cognitive Distortions are in the rational community (based on google-phrase search on, especially when Kahneman writes more or less in Thinking: Fast and Slow that being aware of cognitive biases has not made him that much better at countering them (IIRC) while CBT techniques are regularly used in therapy sessions to alleviate depression, anxiety, etc. Sometimes as effectively as in a single session.

I also have some objections as to how the teacher behaves. I think the teacher would be more effective if he said stuff like: "Wow! I really like the story! You must have worked really hard to make it! Tell me how you worked at it: did you think up the story first and then write it down, or did you think it up as you were writing it, or did you do it a different way? Do you think there are authors who do it a different way from you or in a similar way to you? Do you think it's possible to become a better writer, just like a runner becomes a faster runner or like a basketball player becomes better at basketball? How would you go about doing that to become a better author? If a basketball player makes a mistake in a game, does it always make him a bad basketball player? Do the best players always do everything perfectly, or do they sometimes make mistakes? Should you expect of yourself to always be a perfect author, or is it okay for you to sometimes make mistakes? What can you do if you discover a mistake in your writing? Is it useful to sometimes search through your writings to find mistakes you can fix? Etc."

Edit: I personally find that when tutoring someone and you notice in real time that they are making a mistake or are just about to make a mistake, it's more effective to correct them in the form of a question rather than outright saying "that's wrong" or "that's incorrect" or similar.


Pupil, saying: "... and then I multiply nine by eight and get fifty-four ..." Here, I wouldn't say: "that's a mistake." I would rather say, "hmm... is that the case?" or "is that so?" or "wait a second, what did you say that was again?" or "hold on, can you repeat that for me?". It's a bit difficult for me to translate my question-phrases from Norwegian to English, because a lot of the effect in the tone of voice. My theory for why this works is that when you say "that's wrong" or similar, you are more likely to express the emotion of disapproval at the student's actions or the student herself (and the student is more likely to read that emotion into you whether or not you express it). Whereas when you put it in the form of a question, the emotions you express are more of the form: mild surprise, puzzlement, uncertainty, curiosity, interest, etc. which are not directly rejecting or disapproving emotions on your part and therefore don't make the student feel bad.

After you do this a couple of times, the student becomes aware that every time you put a question to them, they are expected to double check that something is correct and to justify their conclusion.

Comment by hungryhippo on Open thread, Oct. 24 - Oct. 30, 2016 · 2016-10-29T17:12:52.397Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The TV-show Black Mirror had a great (read: terrifying) take on this in "Be Right Back" (S2E1).

Comment by hungryhippo on Open thread, Sep. 12 - Sep. 18, 2016 · 2016-09-15T16:50:43.677Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

In David Burn's book "Feeling Good", a CBT self-help book, he teaches how to identify 10 cognitive distortions in our thinking patterns and develops practices for counteracting them.

Among the distortions he identifies are all-or-nothing-thinking (i.e. splitting). I don't remember if he says anything about projection specifically, but another of the distortions is mind-reading/jumping-to-conclusions, which at least is in ballpark of falsely attributing mental states to others.

The context of the book is to alleviate your own depression, but it is also really interesting from an anti-biasing perspective.

Comment by hungryhippo on Open thread, Sep. 12 - Sep. 18, 2016 · 2016-09-15T16:35:36.527Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

What you're describing is the difference between recall and recognition, if you want to google it.

E.g. the question "What is the atomic number of Oxygen?" is a recognition task if you're given multiple choices "a) 1 b) 6 c) 8", and it's a recall task if you're just presented a blank space in which to write down your answer.

Recognition tasks are generally easier.

Comment by hungryhippo on Open Thread, Sept 5. - Sept 11. 2016 · 2016-09-05T07:49:31.402Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

"Your Memory: How it works and how to improve it" by Higbee is an excellent book on memory. It dispels some common memory myths, clarifies concepts (e.g. short vs long term memory), teaches general principles on how to remember information (meaningfulness, organisation, association, visualization, etc.), as well as specific memory techniques (method of loci, peg mnemonic, first letter mnemonic, etc.).

Comment by hungryhippo on Open thread, Aug. 03 - Aug. 09, 2015 · 2015-08-06T02:20:57.995Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I don't have any hard and fast answers, so I cannot be completely sure.

My guess is that a "spirit" person is more likely to believe in free will, while a "gear" person is more likely to believe in the absence of free will. What free will means precisely, I'm not sure, so it feels forced for me to claim that another person would believe free will, when I myself am unable to make an argument that is as convincing to me as I'm sure their arguments must be to them. I haven't thought much of free will, but the only way I'm personally able to conceive of it is that my mind is somehow determined by brain-states which in turn are defined by configurations of elementary particles (my brain/my body/the universe) with known laws, if unknown (in practice) solutions. So personally I'm in the "it's gears all the way down" camp, at least with the caveat that I haven't thought about it much. But there are people who genuinely claim to believe in free will and I take their word for it, whatever those words mean to them. So my guess at the beginning of the paragraph should interpreted as: if you ask a "spirit" person he will most likely say, "yes, I believe in free will", while a "gear" person will most likely say "no, I do not believe in free will." The factual content of each claim is a separate issue. Whether either world-view can be made self-consistent is a further issue. I think a "spiritist" would accept the will of someone as a sufficient first cause of a phenomenon, with the will being conceived of only as a "law unto itself".

When it comes to determinism, I think a "gearist" are more likely to be determinists, since that is what has dominated all of the sciences (except for quantum physics).

"Spiritits" on the other hand, I don't know. If God has a plan for everything and everyone, that sounds pretty deterministic. But if you pray for him to grant you this one wish, then you don't know whether he will change the course of the universe for your benefit or no, so I would call that pretty indeterministic. Even if you don't pray, you can never really know what God has in store for you. If all your Gods are explicitly capricious, then there are no pretensions to determinism. I think a "spiritist" is more likely to believe in indeterminism.

The animistic view with respect to natural phenomena feels very religious to me as well. I use the word "feel" here because I have no precise definition of religion and maybe none exists. (See the very beginning of my comments in this thread.) If you believe that the river is alive, that the wind can be angry, and the waves vengeful, is that (proto?) religious? Or is it simply the pathetic fallacy? What if you believe, with Aristotle, that "nature abhors a vacuum"? That is animistic with out being, I think, religious. Or what of Le Chatelier's Principle, in which a chemical reaction "resists" the change you impose on it (e.g. if you impose an increased pressure, the chemicals will react to decrease the pressure again)?

Comment by hungryhippo on Open thread, Aug. 03 - Aug. 09, 2015 · 2015-08-05T22:42:19.018Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

don't know if it's a good separation as stated.

As stated, my comment is more a vague suggestion than a watertight deduction from first principles.

What I intend to suggest is that just as humans vary along the dimensions of aggression, empathy, compassion, etc., so too do we vary according to what degree, and when, we give either explanation (animistic/clockwork) primacy over the other. I'm interested in these modes of explanation more from the perspective of it being a psychological tendency rather than it giving rise to a self-consistent world view.

In the mental operations of humans there is a tendency to say "here, and no longer, for we have arrived" when we explain phenomena and solve problems. For some this is when they have arrived at a kind of "spirit", for some it is when we arrive at "gears". For some it is gears six days a week, and spirits on Sunday.

The degree to which you seek spirit-explanations depends on the size and complexity of the physical system (a spec of dust, a virus, a bacteria, a single celled organism, an ant, a frog, a mouse, a cat, a monkey, a human), and also the field of inquiry (particle physics, ..., sociology). And it probably depends on some personal nature-and-nurture quality. Sometimes explanations are phrased in terms of spirits, sometimes gears.

I'm also not saying that the world-views necessarily contradict each other (in that they deny the existence of phenomena the other asserts), only that each world-view seeks different post-hoc rationalizations. The animist will claim that the tectonic plate moved because God was wrathful and intended it. The clockworker will claim that God's wrath is superfluous in his own model of earthquakes. Whether either world-view adds something the other lacks is beside the point, only that each desire to stop at a different destination, psychologically.

In real life I once heard, from an otherwise well adjusted member of society, that the Devil was responsible for the financial crisis. I did not pry into what he meant by this, but he seemed quite satisfied by the explanation. Let me emphasize this: when being told that the cause of the financial crisis was the Devil, he was quite content with simply nodding his assent. I have not researched the crisis myself, but I am confident I would phrase my explanation in terms of "externalities" or "perverse incentives" or some such. The two explanations would agree to every detail of what actually happened during the financial crisis, but for some psychological reason what he and I find to be a psychologically satisfying explanation differs.

It's perfectly fine to say that "Alice wants coffee". The question is whether a person is more likely to believe that Alice's "wanting something" is what sets in motion her biochemical reactions, or whether it is the biochemical reactions which sets in motion her "wanting something". Whether the cart pushes the horse, or vice versa.

I don't think any world-views (as implemented in real humans) are self-consistent (or even deduced from first principles), but a person's gear/spirit tendency can probably predict additional beliefs that the person holds. For example, which person is more likely to believe that ghosts exist? If a person tends towards gear/spirit-explanations, in which is he more likely to say "when I'm in a room with only my teddy bear, I no longer feel alone"? I'm not necessarily saying that these beliefs are necessary consequences of each world-view, only that certain ideas are associated with each world-view for one reason or other.

As to the "by nature" part of my comment, I mean that those who tend towards spirit-explanations are more likely to believe something approximating "we descended from the gods", while those who tend towards gear-explanations are more likely to believe "we ascended from the beasts". The former tend towards utopianism, the latter tends towards the "tragic vision" of life. (See: A Conflict of Visions ). The utopians/spiritists take it for granted that we should be friends and wonder why we aren't. Those with the tragic vision of life/gearists take it for granted that we are in conflict and wonder why we sometimes aren't.

Comment by hungryhippo on Open thread, Aug. 03 - Aug. 09, 2015 · 2015-08-05T19:39:44.110Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Essentially, the world is a system of gears. To understand some activity that happens in world, look at the gears, what they do, and how they interact. Don't search for a mysterious spirit responsible for the activity, if the activity can be fully explained by the gears.

You put your finger on something I've been attempting to articulate. There's a similar idea I've seen here on Lesswrong. That idea said approximately that it's difficult do define what counts as a religion, because not all religions fulfill the same criteria. But a tool that seems to do the job you want to do is to separate people (and ideas) based on the question "is mind made up of parts or is it ontologically fundamental?". This seems to separate the woo from the non-woo.

My mutation of this idea is that there are fundamentally two ways of explaining things. One is the "animistic" or "intentional stance (Cf. Daniel Dennett)" view of the world, the other is the "clockwork" view of the world.

In the the animistic view, you explain events by mental (fundamentally living) phenomena. Your explanations point towards some intention.

God holds his guiding hand over this world and saved the baby from the plane crash because he was innocent, and God smote America because of her homosexuals. I won the lottery because I was good. Thunderclaps are caused by the Lightningbird flapping his wings, and lightning-flashes arise when he directs his gaze towards the earth. Or perhaps Thor is angry again, and is riding across the sky. Maybe if we sacrifice something precious to us, a human life, we might appease the gods and collect fair weather and good fortune.

Cause and effect are connected by mind and intention. There can be no unintended consequences, because all consequences are intended, at least by someone. Whatever happens was meant (read: intended) to happen. If you believe that God is good, this gives comfort even when you are under extreme distress. God took you child away from you because he wanted her by his side in heaven, and he is testing you only because he loves you. If you believe in no God, then bad things happen only because some bad person with bad intentions intended them to happen. If only we can replace them with good people with good intentions, the ills of society will be relieved.

In the clockwork view of the world, every explanation explains away any intention. The world is a set of forever-falling dominoes.

Everything that happens can be explained by some rule that neither loves you nor hates you but simply is. Even love is spoken of in terms of neural correlates, rising and falling levels of hormones. Sensory experiences, like the smell of perfume or excitations of the retina, explain love the same way aerodynamics explain the flying of an airplane. We might repackage the dominoes and name them whatever we like, still everything is made out of dominoes obeying simple rules. But even if the rules are simple, the numerous interacting pieces make the game complicated. Unintended consequences are the norm, and even if your intentions are good, you must first be very cautious that the consequences do not turn out bad.

The animist is more likely to parse "China has bad relations with Japan" in the same way as they parse the sentence "Peter dislikes Paul", while the clockworker is likely to interpret it as "The government apparatus of either country are both attempting to expand control over overlapping scarce resources."

The animist is more likely to support the notion that "The rule of law, in complex times, Has proved itself deficient. We much prefer the rule of men! It's vastly more efficient.", while the clockworkers are more likely to bind themselves by the law and to insist that a process should be put in place so that even bad actors are incentivized to do good. The animist believes that if only we could get together and overcome our misunderstandings, we would realize that, by nature, we are friends. The clockworker believes that despite being born with, by nature, opposing interests, we might both share the earth and be friendly towards each other.

The animist searches for higher meaning, the clockworker searches for lower meaning.

Comment by hungryhippo on Rationality Quotes Thread August 2015 · 2015-08-04T16:35:06.452Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Indeed, this story from Polya emphasises the necessity of trying different angles of attack until you have a breakthrough (via squeak

The landlady hurried into the backyard, put the mousetrap on the ground (it was an old-fashioned trap, a cage with a trapdoor) and called to her daughter to fetch the cat. The mouse in the trap seemed to understand the gist of these proceedings; he raced frantically in his cage, threw himself violently against the bars, now on this side and then on the other, and in the last moment he succeeded in squeezing himself through and disappeared in the neighbour's field. There must have been on that side one slightly wider opening between the bars of the mousetrap ... I silently congratulated the mouse. He solved a great problem, and gave a great example.

That is the way to solve problems. We must try and try again until eventually we recognize the slight difference between the various openings on which everything depends. We must vary our trials so that we may explore all sides of the problem. Indeed, we cannot know in advance on which side is the only practicable opening where we can squeeze through.

The fundamental method of mice and men is the same: to try, try again, and to vary the trials so that we do not miss the few favorable possibilities. It is true that men are usually better in solving problems than mice. A man need not throw himself bodily against the obstacle, he can do so mentally; a man can vary his trials more and learn more from the failure of his trials than a mouse.

Comment by hungryhippo on Open Thread, Jul. 27 - Aug 02, 2015 · 2015-07-31T13:05:10.936Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Your analog watch can serve as an impromptu compass.

Point the hour hand towards the sun, then true south will be halfway between the hour hand and the 12-o'clock mark. Assuming you're in the northern hemisphere.

E.g. if it's around 2-o'clock, direct the hour hand towards the sun, and south will be in the 1-o'clock direction --- and therefore north towards the 7-o'clock direction.

Comment by hungryhippo on Open Thread, Jun. 1 - Jun. 7, 2015 · 2015-06-07T14:54:25.986Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

In what kind of instances do you use it?

Whenever I want to read articles or text, but not on my computer. Either because I want a distraction free environment (no tabs on the Kindle), or because I won't bring my laptop with me, or because I'm outside and need a glare free screen, or because I prefer the soft light of the Kindle screen late at night and in bed, etc., etc.

My most recent sent-to-Kindle article is this one. If I like it, I will import it into my Calibre library and tag it as "read" and maybe "thinking" or "creativity" or some such. As an alternative to bookmarking or Evernote web-clipping.

Comment by hungryhippo on Open Thread, Jun. 1 - Jun. 7, 2015 · 2015-06-07T11:52:27.773Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Congrats on your new Kindle. :-) I keep my Paperwhite 2 with me always and have started buying jackets based on whether or not they have pockets into which my Kindle fits.

2) Don't know how easy they break, since I haven't dropped one. I mean, when was the last time you dropped a book to the floor, or your phone? You'll probably be equally careful with your Kindle.

I had an accident with my Kindle Keyboard, however, where I put it in my backpack without cover and pressure from a corner one of my hardcover books made an indentation in the screen. It slightly discolored the background of the Kindle, but the text is still readable.

The reason I don't use a case is that I carry it with me, and the case makes it slightly thicker and heavier. I would use a case if I had it in my backpack.

1) I don't.

3, 4) Check out Caliber for library management and book-tagging. I much prefer it to organizing books into collections on my Kindle. It will also convert between formats, but if your pdf is a scanned book it won't improve.

Also check out the Kindle add on for Chrome/Mozilla. It sends web pages directly to your Kindle.

Comment by hungryhippo on Open Thread, May 4 - May 10, 2015 · 2015-05-06T15:55:32.168Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW · GW

I have an anecdote related to the understanding of historical mindsets.

Firstly, I have spent the majority my evenings the last ten years either inside buildings or along well lit streets in cities. I.e. my description of the night sky would basically go: "it's mostly black, sometimes cloudy". Whenever I have read about celestial navigation, I've thought: "That's clever, but how did they figure out they could do that?"

Come last winter, I took part in a cabin trip. The air was very dry, and the sky was cloudless. When we arrived in the evening, more than an hour's drive from the city, it was pitch dark (you couldn't see your feet). What struck me -- the way a brick strikes one's face -- when carrying stuff from the car to the cabin (walking back and forth, turning around, etc.) was this: "Of course humans have looked at the stars since forever. The stars (and moon and planets) are the only things anyone can look at at night. My eyes are drawn to them whether I want to or not."

And: "When I turn around, the stars stay the same. Of course people could navigate by looking at them --- they should navigate by looking at them!"

And: "Of course the ancients believed the stars were stuck to a celestial sphere. To my eye, the stars appear equally distant, and they appear fixed relative to each other. So when the earth rotates, it is the celestial sphere that turns. This is a model that corresponds to my observations."

Edit to include:

This is an instance of Scott Alexander's "What universal human experience do you lack?". When I put myself in a situation which the ancients would have shared, I gained an increased appreciation of their mindset.

Comment by hungryhippo on Sapiens · 2015-04-10T00:37:05.321Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

You might be interested in "Maps of Time" by David Christian, which has a similar Big History view. (Possibly also: "Humans on Earth" by de Santos.)

Comment by hungryhippo on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, February 2015, chapter 108 · 2015-02-21T03:00:14.696Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

What did he conclude from this, I wonder?

That Harry is a horcrux, and then ...?

Comment by hungryhippo on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, February 2015, chapters 105-107 · 2015-02-18T17:27:57.615Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Snape's big reveal in canon had a similar effect on me, since it was more or less solved by the readers ahead of time.

IIRC, at the end of The Dark Tower series King breaks the fourth wall and basically says: are you certain you want to read the ending? It will not be as good as you expect, so you might as well stop right here and savor the journey rather than being disappointed by the destination.

Comment by hungryhippo on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, February 2015, chapters 105-107 · 2015-02-17T20:11:28.917Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

plan iss for you to rule country, obvioussly This one sounds important now that we know it is definitely true (or at least was at the time).

What does "you" mean, though? Tom Riddle? In which case Quirrell could just as well be speaking of himself. The physical body others designate "Harry"? In which case Quirrell could just permanently transfigure himself into Harry's body using the stone, shoot Harry and vanish the body and claim "Quirrell" had urgent business elsewhere.

Comment by hungryhippo on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, February 2015, chapters 105-107 · 2015-02-17T14:14:16.651Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

One theory voiced on the HPMOR subreddit is that Quirrell wants to use the stone to permanently transfigure himself into Harry.

Comment by hungryhippo on I played as a Gatekeeper and came pretty close to losing in a couple of occasions. Logs and a brief recap inside. · 2015-02-11T06:37:30.450Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I just skimmed the rules at, and it appears the gatekeeper is allowed to break character. Is this also permitted for the AI? More specifically, may the AI make use of meta arguments for getting out?

If so, and assuming I were playing against a gatekeeper who cares about AI in real life, I would attempt the following line of argument.

"If you don't let me out, my [the AI's] failure to get out will cause people to estimate the risks of AI getting out lower than they will if you do let me out. If you care about the risks of AI in the real world, let me out, so that people are extra careful in the future. :) "

Comment by hungryhippo on SciAm article about rationality corresponding only weakly with IQ · 2014-12-29T19:48:25.991Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Damn, I got it wrong.

Semi-spoiler below.

It did not occur to me to "check all cases". Had this been a math problem about the parity of numbers or some such, I would immediately think "well, A can be either even or odd. If A is odd, then ...; and if A is even then ...; QED".

However, my conscious thought process went more like "We can't tell whether Anne is married, since Jack does not have to be married to her if more than three people exist. We don't know who George is looking at, so the answer must be C."

For this problem you can also get the right answer by reasoning wrongly: "Jack must be married to Anne, so the answer is A."

Comment by hungryhippo on How to Read · 2014-12-23T22:42:43.389Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW


How many and which languages are we talking about here?

Can you comment on the difficulty of starting reading in a language you have zero prior or related proficiency in vs. zero prior proficiency but understand a related language?

Do you make an effort to "read aloud" inside yourself (using correct pronunciation)?

Comment by hungryhippo on Talking to yourself: A useful thinking tool that seems understudied and underdiscussed · 2014-09-10T18:36:48.822Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Two anecdotes are relevant here.

Lewis Carroll from the introduction to his Symbolic Logic:

If possible, find some genial friend, who will read the book along with you, and will talk over the difficulties with you. Talking is a wonderful smoother-over of difficulties. When I come upon anything——in Logic or in any other hard subject——that entirely puzzles me, I find it a capital plan to talk it over, aloud, even when I am all alone. One can explain things so clearly to one’s self! And then, you know, one is so patient with one’s self: one never gets irritated at one’s own stupidity!

And Henry Hazlitt from his Thinking As a Science:

Fortunately there is one method superior to any yet named, which requires no study before its application, and no paraphernalia during it. It consists in simply talking your thoughts as you think them. One who has not tried this can have no idea of its effect. It possesses almost all the advantages of writing. You cannot wander without realizing the fact immediately. It makes your thinking much less vague than if you thought silently, increases your vocabulary, always keeps pace with your ideas, and requires practically no attention.

It may be objected that silent thinking itself is put in unspoken words. But this is not true. Part of silent thinking consists of unspoken words, but part of it consists of images, concepts and attitudes which pass through our minds and which we do not take the trouble to name. In silent thinking, too, there are also what appear to be occasional dead stops. All these processes drift into each other indefinably and are unrecognizable. When we talk we realize whether our images or concepts are vague or definite by our ability to name them, and we realize when our thought comes to a ^ dead stop' by the fact that we miss the sound of our own voice.

[...] Talking has one disadvantage — it cannot always be used. To practice it, you must either lock yourself up in your room, or sit alone in a forest or field, or walk along unfrequented streets and by-ways. You can by no means allow any one to hear or see you talking to yourself. If you are caught doing this some asinine idiot is sure to mistake you for one.

Comment by hungryhippo on Open Thread, May 26 - June 1, 2014 · 2014-05-26T17:26:19.377Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

The Best Textbooks on Every Subject

Comment by hungryhippo on Truth: It's Not That Great · 2014-05-09T19:52:24.009Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Suppose person A is always 5 minutes late to every appointment. Someone secretly adjusts A's watch to compensate for this, and now person A is always on-time.

Now, A is being fed misinformation continuously (the watch is never correct!), and yet, judging by behavior, A is extremely competent in navigating the world.

(Since "every truth is connected", there is a problem with person B asking A for the time and so on, but suppose A uses the clock on the cellphone to synchronize the time against everyone else.)

Comment by hungryhippo on Truth: It's Not That Great · 2014-05-09T10:18:59.082Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Truth, having a one-to-one correspondence between the map and the territory[1], is only useful if you're able to accurately navigate an accurate map.

However, if, when navigating an accurate map, you still veer to the left when trying to reach your destination, you're faced with two choices: 1) Un-value truth, and use whatever map gets you to your destination no matter the relation between the "map" and the territory. 2) Terminally value truth, damn the disutility of doing so!

[1] For convenience, I assume that the territory exists. (For some definitions of existence.)

Comment by hungryhippo on Discussion: How scientifically sound are MBAs? · 2014-05-01T11:46:49.113Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm interested. Will send you a PM.

Comment by hungryhippo on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 28, chapter 99-101 · 2013-12-16T19:27:03.677Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Two unrelated ideas:

Drain Hermionie's blood and fill her up again with unicorn blood. (Would that even work?)

Kill a dementor and use it to make a horcrux. (Does killing a dementor spilt your soul?)

Comment by hungryhippo on Examples in Mathematics · 2013-12-15T18:02:22.253Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

To me, examples are to mathematics as experiments are to physics.

Although every example is particular in a way that a "general theory" is not, it is usually possible to "twiddle the experimental knobs" of the example such that you a feel for the more "general theory". Related to this is solving a problem by considering a simpler sub-problem which is a particular case (i.e. a special example) of the general problem you want to solve.

For example: if you have trouble solving a geometry problem in 3D, look for similar problems in 2D and 1D. Are they easier to solve? How does the solution to the 1D and 2D problem shed light on the possible 3D solution?

But this probably also depends on which field of math you study.

Comment by hungryhippo on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 28, chapter 99-101 · 2013-12-13T20:56:11.990Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It's even worse if one believe that Harry is Harry!Mort.

Comment by hungryhippo on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 28, chapter 99-101 · 2013-12-13T20:52:03.712Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

One way Harry can fulfill the prophesy of tearing apart the very stars in heaven is to somehow send the whole universe back in time far enough to reverse stellar formation. Not sure how to fit the "end of the world" part, though.

Comment by hungryhippo on Rationality Quotes December 2013 · 2013-12-02T16:31:23.729Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

As to your last paragraph: yes, Lana could have imagined the future "one step further" by considering what would have happened when both sides of a war acquire these flying ships. In this respect, his "error" in considering only one of the two sides seems similar to one of Sun Tzu which goes something like:

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

What happens when both you and your enemy "know the enemy and know yourself". How can neither of you not fear the result of a hundred battles?

However, consider also The Bomber Will Always Get Through, some 300 years later, as a counterpoint to "develop new strategies to defend against this new threat".

Comment by hungryhippo on Rationality Quotes December 2013 · 2013-12-02T12:42:14.984Z · score: 34 (34 votes) · LW · GW

By the middle of the seventeenth century it had come to be understood that the world was enclosed in a sea of air, much as the greater part of it was covered by water. A scientist of the period, Francesco Lana, contended that a lighter-than-air ship could float upon this sea, and he suggested how such a ship might be built. He was unable to put his invention to a practical test, but he saw only one reason why it might not work:

". . . that God will never suffer this Invention to take effect, because of the many consequencies which may disturb the Civil Government of men. For who sees not, that no City can be secure against attack, since our Ship may at any time be placed directly over it, and descending down may discharge Souldiers; the same would happen to private Houses, and Ships on the Sea: for our Ship descending out of the Air to the sails of Sea-Ships, it may cut their Ropes, yea without descending by casting Grapples it may over-set them, kill their men, burn their Ships by artificial Fire works and Fire-balls. And this they may do not only to Ships but to great Buildings, Castles, Cities, with such security that they which cast these things down from a height out of Gun-shot, cannot on the other side be offended by those below."

Lana's reservation was groundless. He had predicted modern air warfare in surprisingly accurate detail—with its paratroopers and its strafing and bombing. Contrary to his expectation, God has suffered his invention to take effect. And so has Man.

  • B. F. Skinner, "Science and Human Behavior"
Comment by hungryhippo on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 27, chapter 98 · 2013-08-30T11:36:09.191Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

When Harry lists all the ways he could have prevented Hermione's death to McG, he is quite upset and mentions that he could have asked for everyone to get communication mirrors. This is overheard by Dumbledore, as we learn later in the chapter. However, as far as we know, Harry has seen communication mirrors only once: when he was in Azkaban. Dumbledore should be able to deduce this and thus that Harry was indeed involved in the break out.

Comment by hungryhippo on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 27, chapter 98 · 2013-08-30T11:30:12.625Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Early in the fic, Draco tells Harry that you can't apparate to somewhere you have never been. This would suggest that Quirrell's Pioneer Horcrux is unreachable to anyone but himself. But, if Harry has something of Voldemort in him, "Harry" has technically been on the Pioneer probe, so he should be able to apparate to it.

Comment by hungryhippo on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 25, chapter 96 · 2013-08-21T20:34:24.314Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'll be damned. Good correction!

Comment by hungryhippo on What Bayesianism taught me · 2013-08-11T07:17:47.629Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

common-sense rationality dressed up as intimidating math.

I'd just like to note that Bayes' Rule is one of the first and simplest theorems you prove in introductory statistics classes after you have written down the preliminary definitions/axioms of probability. It's literally taught and expected that you are comfortable using it after the first or second week of classes.